Process Manufacturing Automation: Five Key Problems & Solutions

Process Manufacturing Automation: Five Key Problems & Solutions

In today’s world, where everything happens at an insane pace, businesses need to be on their toes to keep up and adapt to changing demands. That’s why they have to closely watch every aspect of their operation. However, other businesses are endeavoring to use the incredible advances in technology to gain an edge in the industry.

Posted on 21-Jun-2021

Many businesses still rely on their staff and experts to manually check their production line, keep track of their inventory, and monitor performance indicators. However, like anything else in life, humans make mistakes. A miscalculation during performance monitoring or quality inspections can lead the business down the wrong track.

In the past, some mistakes were curable, but nowadays businesses can hardly afford any. Needless to say, manual methods won’t cut it anymore. In any industry, companies need to find the answer as soon as possible to survive. There’s a straightforward solution, and that’s Automation. Automated solutions can fundamentally change the landscape of companies in various areas. Below, we’ll take a look at some of them.

Performance Monitoring & Capacity Utilization
Performance monitoring and capacity utilization can test the patience of any manager. You’re obligated to determine storage and computation resources and balance out not going over budget with providing quality service. Continuous performance monitoring is vital for maintaining operations at optimal levels. It’s even more crucial in virtual environments where there’s a shared pool of resources.

Consequently, many seek cloud-based solutions for identifying and resolving issues. These solutions monitor performance based on specific criteria, and once met, they activate alarm protocols to notify you concerning the root of the problem. Utilizing this information, you can get a clearer view of the problem and avoid future repetitions.

However, there’s one problem. Every time you get an alert, you have to stop what you’re doing, analyze the problem, and take proper actions to manage the issue. When you consider how many alerts will pop up in a day, you realize it’s incredibly time-consuming. It will considerably increase immediate downtime and ultimately undermine productivity. What’s the missing ingredient? Automation. With an automated solution, you’re required to intervene much less and can keep the service at a functioning level 99.9% of the time. You can also adjust capacity utilization based on conditions.

How do you select the right solution? A simple google search will give you a long list of results that will surely overwhelm you. Instead, it’s best to choose a third-party provider that can help you figure out what you need and provide a tailored solution consistent with your requirements.

Correct Recipe Management
When there’s an order for a specific product, the request will undergo several steps within the manufacturing process. A particular machine is supposed to act in every step based on a set of instructions or "recipes". The equipment is set up according to recipe details (pressure, temperature, processing period, etc.).

However, recipe management can be a painstaking process requiring the manual intervention of some stakeholders. Naturally, that can lead to damage to consistency in reporting parameter values and undermine data integrity. Furthermore, the staff has to repeat time-consuming maintenance procedures and have enough training to do manual backups. With a lack of accurate data and the probability of human errors, the final product may look very different from the original vision.

If any of those problems ring a bell, then it may be time to turn to automation. An automated recipe management solution can effortlessly tally up the numbers and eliminate a significant source of human error. With an automatic recipe selection based on equipment type and capability, there’s little chance for any inconsistency about recipe selection. By monitoring data at every stage, an automatic recipe management system can adjust the process in real-time to enhance quality and yield.

An automatic system determines the equipment’s operation status based on the most optimal recipe in any circumstance with a set of predefined rules. Hence naturally, that will bring about maximum equipment utilization and throughput.

Batch Tracking
Batch refers to products manufactured with similar materials and under the same conditions. For example, companies in the food industry, cosmetics and similar businesses deal with short-lived goods that easily spoil. Hence, the need for continuous and constant monitoring and managing of different batches. 

However, these materials are especially sensitive to temperature and humidity. Plus, they’re worthless once they pass the expiration date. Therefore, it’s far easier and wiser to use an automated batch tracking system to keep an eye on expiration dates and monitor the quality of raw materials.

The batch tracking system assigns a batch number to quickly identify and trace products throughout the whole production process. Once a faulty product is spotted in the chain, you can easily trace it back to the original batch to prevent other defective products from getting in the loop. Moreover, expiration dates can be constantly tracked toward avoiding spoilage, cutting down costs and increasing profits. 

In addition, the system can also constantly monitor production machinery and tools by linking them in a shared ecosystem. This smart manufacturing process will significantly reduce costs, streamline workflow and improve productivity.

Quality Assurance
On manual quality inspections, it’s down to the operators/engineers to analyze and measure production line quality. But, of course, the operator may not have enough time to physically check every single item on a typical day, let alone on a busy time with high throughput. For example, the inspector must ensure that the color, viscosity, and shape are consistent among all products. Such performance demands a level of accuracy that isn’t possible in high volumes.

Even with enough time, you cannot guarantee quality by relying on a technician’s observations. Hence, output and productivity will also suffer in addition to quality. But, in that same timeframe, an automated solution can measure more products in far more detail. Not only that, you can immediately detect and resolve any issues to prevent avoidable downtimes and improve productivity.

It can be challenging for you to find people with impressive qualifications and experience performing manual quality inspections. However, with an easy-to-use, automated solution, the staff don’t need extensive training, and you won’t have to rely too much on their experience or expertise. What’s more, automation can significantly reduce quality control costs since it can detect and resolve errors before becoming costly failures.

Storage Conditions
Storage is the heart of any manufacturing operation. Without consistent attention to temperature, humidity, anxiety, and other elements of the storage area, all time and effort will be for naught. However, typically workers have to spend a significant portion of their shifts to check inventory and status and get back to you.

Obviously, they can’t keep an eye on storage 24/7, and their observations won’t be without errors. However, an automated solution can save you from these costly errors, especially in businesses like the food industry, where temperature and humidity are sensitive.

With an automated storage and retrieval system, you can lower the labor requirement by 65% compared to the manual method. Plus, it’ll save you significantly on shelf space because your footprint will be 5-10 times smaller than traditional storage. When there’s a limit on the available surface and capacity, this benefit is paramount.

In addition, an automated solution helps you accurately keep track of stored goods, so you won’t have to bear the risk of running low on some items. Moreover, you won’t spend your vital resources excessively stocking up on goods that will keep your money tied up. It’ll help you increase cost efficiency and quickly scale and expand your output. Not only it’ll help you operate in a compact footprint and lower the error rate, but it’ll also increase throughput and accuracy in the same proportion.

Bottom Line
In a world where businesses are constantly striving to bring down costs, keep up with the latest trends and maximize revenue, automation is an absolute necessity. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The key here is to look for a company with a wide range of options to comply with your needs.

With various technologies available on the market, it may be a bit overwhelming to research and identify the most optimal automation solution. Don’t worry, because you’ve found the answer. Here at IMTS, you can choose from +1000 Intelligent Enterprise Solutions. All are industry-specific and fully customizable. Hence, it’s no surprise we have more than 2000 users from multiple industries who enjoy the benefits of our services. Feel free to contact us and speak to our team of experts who are ready to answer all of your questions.